By Wilson Adams
Let’s set the record straight (no pun intended!) I like music. Always have. I have a stereo in my house, exercise with a Walkman on my side, and drive with an Infinity sound system in my car. I grew up on 8 Tracks, Casey Kasem’s “Top 40 Countdown,” and a pretty good album collection (which has gone the way of the yard sale). I also believed that having a car with a quadraphonic speaker system was more important than having one with an engine. Sound typical?
Today, depending on the mood, I may listen to pop-rock or country tunes. (Although I’m getting partial to the latter. A sign of maturity?) Sometimes I’m even into classical. (A sign of real maturity!) Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know that I’m not some out-of-touch preacher who hates music or who believes that his kind is the only kind. Quite the contrary.
And something else. Young people need to know that the Bible isn’t against music either. From the first genealogical record of Genesis which mentions Jubal as “the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe” (4:21), to an entire collection of songs occupying more space in the Bible than any other book, music has played a key role in the history of man. And wasn’t it King Saul who hired a young “skillful musician” named David to play in the palace? (See 1 Samuel 16:14ff.)
Music isn’t the problem. Like other things, there is good and bad. Country songs which glorify drinkin’ and cheatin’ and “Tight Fittin’ Jeans” are not much different than some of the suggestive lyrics of Rock `n’ Roll. Such songs should be avoided. Thus, it’s not music style or preference that concerns me. It’s content. And influence.
The Influence of Music
There is no question that music influences. Ask the creators of Sesame Street or Barney who have found music to be the key factor in learning and memorization. The success of these programs proves that children do learn from what they see role modeled before them. All of which raises an important question: At what age does a child cease to learn from the use of music, words and images? Answer: Never.
August, 1981 ushered in the age of music television with the birth of MTV a powerful cultural force that has influenced a generation and boosted music sales like nothing before. Maybe you’re kids don’t watch it (Good for you!) but chances are they have been influenced from peers who do.
Here are two questions I would like to ask parents: (1) How many hours per day does your child listen to music? (The average for today’s teen is 4-6 hours!) (2) What are they listening to? (You’re probably thinking that, with obnoxious sound and incomprehensible lyrics, who knows?) But please don’t ask: Who cares? because you should.
Some of today’s musicians are communicating positive messages in their music. Some aren’t. All too often what kids are hearing from CD’s, MTV and live concert performances is that drugs are okay, sex is great and violence is acceptable. In fact, Heavy Metal, the most disturbing element in contemporary music (and fast becoming the music of choice among pre-teens and adolescents) deals with themes that would (and should!) shock most parents, if they knew.
Five Major Themes of Heavy Metal Music
1. Alcohol and drug abuse. After Vince Neil, lead singer of Motley Crue, was arrested in 1985 for drunk driving in which one person was killed and two others critically injured, he explained his thought on alcohol: “I love to drink … but I’m not going to drive anymore. And I think we should tell our fans . . . Don’t drink and drive, not don’t drink. Do whatever you want to do man … shoot up heroin, I don’t care, do it, have fun, it’s your life.” Amazing. It’s no surprise that their songs reflect the same attitude.
In License to Ill, the debut album of The Beastie Boys, there are 95 references to drug and alcohol consumption. Newsweek reported on the group by saying, “Among other things, the boys lustily hymn the joys of girls, gunplay, and getting high. ” The beasties are quoted as saying, “The band only wants to bring a little fun into the lives of all the 13-year-old girls who buy their records.” This is the same group that encourages all girls in the audiences of their concerts to bare their breasts while at the same time hoisting a twenty foot long hydraulic penis on stage. (I’m sorry if that is offensive but it’s about time we open our eyes to reality.)
2. Suicide and death. Here are the words to Ozzy Osbourn’s Suicide Solution: “Breaking laws, knocking doors, but there’s no one at home. Made your bed, rest your head, but you lie there and moan. Where to hide, suicide is the only way out. Don’t you know what it’s really about?”
The cult band, Suicidal Tendencies, sing Suicide’s An Alternative from their debut album: “Sick of life . . . Sick and tired . . . no one cares. Sick of myself . . . don’t wanna live. Sick of living . . . gonna die! Suicide’s an alternative!”
The suicide rate among teens have tripled in the last three decades. 600,000 teens attempt suicide every year and many succeed. True, not every young person who listens to heavy metal music is going to commit suicide. But some will. And some have.
3. Graphic violence. WASP is a band whose concert violence includes the simulated execution of a nude woman. Lead singer Blackie Lawless said, “After we use the rack, I’ll cut the girl down, throw her over my shoulder, take her to the center of the stage and drop her in this contraption. It’s like a meat grinder . . . It’ll spray her all over the audience. We’ll even pass out raincoats. The sicker they get, the sicker we’ll get.” Their song Anything Goes from their album Appetite For Destruction glorifies rape. (WASP carries the label of Capitol Records, a leader in the music industry.)
Another group, Guns N’ Roses, released an album with an explicit rape scene on the cover and their song “It’s So Easy” also glorifies rape. The Misfits sing: “I’ve got something to say, I killed your baby today. It doesn’t matter much to me . . . as long as it’s dead. I’ve got something to say, I raped your mother today. It doesn’t matter much to me . . .” (This at a time when rape is rampant.)
4. Fascination with the occult. The group AC/DC invites their fans to join them on the Highway to Hell. Other bands such as Megadeath, Slayer, Venom and Merciful Fate provide “how to” guides in their songs dealing with themes from sacrifice to sex with the dead. Venom sings: “Candles glowing, alters burn, virgin’s death is needed there. Sacrifice to Lucifer, my Master . . . Bring the chalice, raise the knife, welcome to my sacrifice!” Tom Jarriel on ABC’s 20/20 program noted, “The Satanic message is clear, both in the album covers and in the lyrics, which are reaching impressionable young minds.”
5. Explicit Sex. In the sixties it was Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones singing, “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” which caused such a major uproar that some radio stations refused to air the song. That’s nothing compared to some of the lyrics of today.
In the song Sister, from the album Dirty Mind, rock star Prince sings, “My sister never made love to anyone but me. She’s the reason for my sexuality.” (Other Prince songs and lyrics from the group Van Halen, Madonna and others, go beyond what can even be printed!) When 2 Live Crew released their debut album, a Florida store clerk was arrested for selling obscenity to a minor.
The Dead Kennedys, a punk rock band, released an album in 1986 with an enclosed poster entitled “Penis Landscape.” Labeled as “a work of art” this poster was so hard-core that Playboy Magazine when reporting on the story blacked out the explicit parts of the poster. There was a time when hard-core pornography was available only in porn shops to those over age 21. However, a growing number of record companies have succeeded in making explicit material available to anyone at any age.
Through the work of Tipper Gore and others, the Parents Music Resource Center has fought to force the music industry to print lyrics on the covers of all records, tapes and CD’s so that parents can be aware of the content. They have succeeded. But it will do no good if parents continue to look the other way. That is the one thing we cannot afford to do.
Let’s talk, look, and listen. Let’s encourage our teens to enjoy good songs with positive, uplifting lyrics. (They do exist!) Let’s turn off MTV (or have it disconnected if it is a problem) and teach our kids the art of selectivity when it comes to music . . . and then practice it ourselves (Phil. 4:8). (For more information, contact: P.M.R.C., 1500 Arlington Blvd. Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22209.)
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 3, p. 15-16
February 3, 1994